one small voice

One of my guilty pleasures is supporting Ipswich Town Football Club. It’s good for humility and helps me learn to cope with disappointment. A couple of times a year I like to go to watch them at their home ground, and I like getting there early to watch the preparations for the match – watching the teams ‘warm up’ (if I had warmed up as vigorously as that before a match when I used to play I would have been worn out before we started); seeing the grounds staff set up sprinklers (secretly hoping to squirt one of the opposition players as they warm up – it happened once) and then sort out any rogue divots before the match starts; seeing the interaction between the Ipswich Town mascots (Bluey and Crazee (usually messing around too)) and the crowd; and generally soaking up the atmosphere.

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Crazee

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When you arrive early there are not many people in the stadium. If I tried shouting a football chant or cheering nobody outside the ground would hear me – very few people in the stadium would hear me, and those who did might move away a bit. But slowly the ground fills up and the noise level rises. Then, during the match, when the crowd chants together or cheers people a long way away from the ground will hear them. Indeed I have been told that when there were Sunday lunchtime matches a nearby church had to make sure they finished their services before the match started otherwise they would be drowned out by the crowd.

I was reminded of that this morning when I got an email. This is what it said:

Dear Nick Lear,

Parliament is going to debate the petition you signed – “Jeremy Hunt to resume meaningful contract negotiations with the BMA.”.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/121262

The debate is scheduled for 21 March 2016.

Once the debate has happened, we’ll email you a video and transcript.

Thanks,
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

On my own my voice would not have been heard. But when lots of people collectively gather together and raise their voice it can be heard and can make a difference. I think it’s part of what we call ‘democracy’. But if lots of small voices hadn’t spoken up nothing would have happened.

(I also wrote to my MP about the Refugee Crisis in Calais and got a letter back on official Houses of Parliament headed paper – but sadly it was a stock reply that didn’t answer any of the points I made. Still, at least my voice was raised and perhaps if lots of voices speak together someone might listen).

It’s funny how many Baptist churches think that they are democracies because they vote in Church Meetings. People think that it’s all about a majority of people getting their way. Yes, we believe that God speaks through a Church Meeting. Yes, one of the mechanisms for seeking to discern God’s voice is through voting. But it’s not a democracy because God doesn’t always speak through a majority. Part of the art of leading a church is to listen for God in the small voices as well as the loud ones. We also have to listen to him speaking through the unexpected, unanticipated person. We have to listen for him in the still small voice. And when we sense him speaking, it makes sense for us to stop and listen because he seems to enjoy speaking through the small, marginalised, apparently insignificant…

Consider Samuel hearing God speak when he was a small boy; Elijah in the cave sensing God in a gentle whisper rather than an earthquake, storm or wildfire; Mary the pregnant teenager; and of course the carpenter’s son from the back of beyond.

Your small voice can make a difference, and it might be that God is speaking through you. He might want you to join your small voice with others. So don’t be silent. And when lots of small voices join together sometimes the powerful stop and listen (which is a lesson to learn both if you are a small voice or if you are powerful).

Be blessed, be a blessing

the x factor

Last Thursday I attended a wonderful prayer vigil at Chelmsford Cathedral (thanks to all who clearly worked so hard on it) where we were provided with opportunities to pray about a number of different issues related to the General Election (tomorrow, in case you didn’t know!)*.

Praying for housing and homelessness – the books in both scenarios are ‘Great Expectations’ – lovely touch!

We were also offered the following prayer, which I think sums up my aspirations when I take part in the ‘x factor’ and put my ‘x’ in the box and put my paper with the ‘x’ in the box in the box. How will you be voting?

Lord God,

You are sovereign over governments and nations, you care for each individual, for those who are powerless and for those on the margins.

You created us to live, not in isolation, but in society and in harmony with all creation. So we pray for wisdom and discernment as we prepare to vote. Help us to see the issues that confront us in the light of the values of your Kingdom.

May we vote not in our own interests but in the interests of others; those in our communities, in our nation, across the world and the whole created order.

We pray for all those standing for election, that they may speak and act with honesty and integrity, and we pray that those called upon to serve as MPs may do so in the spirit of servanthood and in the interest of the common good.

We ask that you will enable us to play our part in building a just and peaceful world in which all people and all living things may flourish.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*I also had the opportunity to pray for the election on Radio Essex alongside our local Bishops!